UW Impact is the UW Alumni Association’s legislative advocacy program. In 2009, the UW Alumni Association Board of Trustees voted unanimously to create UW Impact in response to a sharp decline in state support for higher education. Today, UW Impact is one of the primary ways the UW Alumni Association fulfills its mission: to support the UW and higher education in the state of Washington.
Since 2010, UW alumni and friends have sent tens of thousands of messages to Olympia using UW Impact tools. The UW Impact program is supported by membership dues and does not use state resources for grassroots lobbying purposes. Our annual priorities are set with assistance from our Legislative Advocacy Committee, a volunteer group comprised of UW alumni and friends who are passionate about advocating for higher education.
UW Impact is joined in its mission by higher education advocacy networks at Western Washington University and Washington State University. Working in tandem with these groups, and with university lobbyists and government relations teams, we have seen significant progress in the awareness of and commitment to higher education issues by our state legislature. A sampling of some of our collective achievements:
- In 2011, the UW and WSU were granted tuition-setting authority to mitigate the effects of deep cuts in state funding.
- In 2013, for the first time two decades, the State Legislature passed a budget that reinvested in public higher education and froze resident undergraduate tuition at its current rate for two years.
- In 2014’s supplemental budget, the Legislature made a significant reinvestment in key areas of higher ed, such as STEM education.
- In 2014, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF), was facing termination, and needed immediate help to preserve existing and future grants. The fund helps pay for UW research projects in breast cancer prognosis, heart monitors, hearing loss and many other health science endeavors. UW Impact mobilized alums, faculty and friends in protest. Governor Inslee cited the many letters he received from LSDF supporters when exercising his veto and preserving the LSDF.
While these accomplishments have certainly made a difference for the UW and public higher education, they are modest when considering them in the context of the sharp decline in state funding over the past several decades. We still have plenty of work to do with our colleagues and advocates – you! – to reverse the state trend of disinvestment and to keep the “public” in public higher education.